Tokyo Fixed deliver their first custom Cherubim
Japan's Keirin track racing system has nurtured a culture of fine frame building with Cherubim among the best
If you want an idea of how long it takes to receive a bespoke frame from a legendary Japanese builder, Soho bike shop Tokyo Fixed started taking orders for their new brand Cherubim at the Bespoked Bristol show back in June. They've just delivered the first one this week.
Cherubim is one of those few traditional frame building names bigger than the tubing brands they're made from. Under normal circumstances, a large and sometimes quite gaudy sticker - yes, Reynolds, we're looking at you - proclaims the provenance of the materials employed on a quality frame. Partly because frame builders want to be sure you know they're using the most pukka tubing, mostly though that no sticker could mean some kind of poor generic stuff derisively referred to as 'gas piping.'
When a brand is so famous for its work, in the case of Cherubim that the frames have been used by champions in Japan's Keirin track racing circus for over thirty years, the lack of signage just quietly says, "We don't need to play that game." You really just need to look at the workmanship, feel the weight and trust that one of if not the main criterion for certification by the Keirin governing body is strength and you know you're holding a quality product.
Chrome and hand-painted gold paint to the Cherubim signature engravings: nice.
That was certainly the feeling we got when we saw the Cherubim Piuma bike that won the "Best Road Bike" award at Bespoked in June. The frame was fillet-brazed, meaning that the precisely mitred tubes are held together by solder with a lower melting point than the host material which will be a silver alloy in the case of the extremely thin-walled, high-strength Kasei steel tubing used by Cherubim, and there are neat reinforcements at the points of maximum wear and stress such as the seat post post clamp and where the headset cups press into the head tube.
Cherubim also use chrome-plating, polished to perfection where it is left exposed for durability where paint would otherwise chip; that seat lug again but the chainstays in particular which take a beating from the chain in the life of a frame look just plain beautiful like fine jewellery. Exquisite workmanship, in short.
Touches better appreciated before the bike is built up: neat reinforcements to the bottle cage bosses.
Anyway, this week Tokyo Fixed built their first bike based on a frame that had been ordered since the launch in June. "Twelve weeks is do-able," according to their Max Lewis, "but you wouldn't want to plan on it." For a small workshop under the direct tutelage of the founder's son Shin-Ichi Konno, you just know that orders from all over the world, even at £2,000 a time, are plentiful enough at certain times of the season that lead times will inevitably stretch to more like six months.
Konno-san apparently maintains a ruthlessly fair system of building in the correct sequence of orders arriving and states from the outset when completion will be but still, it must be painful to be receiving a bike like this in the first week of icy roads in the UK. Max more pragmatically says, "I'm very happy one has left us before the year end!
As befits a bespoke frame, apart from the practical and unique combination of tube lengths to suit the buyer's physical proportions, there are other more whimsical touches; in this case a matching-painted carbon fork is held in a traditional threaded headset, now look at that lovely chrome-plated shaping to the head tube reinforcement. The seat stays as well as the chain stays are chrome-plated as well as curved, this latter only viewable from the rear.
Dare we say it, we might even prefer this to the Bespoked-winning Cherubim which we loved on account of its silver colour and matching alloy components. But there's always something about a bike that's been put together with care after a lot of consideration. This must be one happy customer, although possibly frustrated by a shorter than ideal first ride this weekend.
Looks fairly conventional from the side but check out the rear view.